As regular readers will know, over the last few months I’ve been dedicating some of my professional time to building a Patreon. In around 6 months I went from $18 of support, to over $2oo per month, which buys me a couple of extra days each month to work on my own writing. But most of the work to make that happen started long before Patreon even existed.
To think about why Patreon works, it’s useful to be familiar with the term “Revenue Per Reader” from Nicholas Lovell’s excellent handbook on making a living as a creator in the digital age, The Curve. Most writers assume they get paid because people buy their books. To an extent, that’s true. But the digital world changes that substantially. Many writers give their books away, and even encourage people to “pirate” their work. Why?
RPR is the answer, and it’s an important idea if you want to build a career as an independent writer. In the words of Tim O’Reilly, the challenge for most writers is not piracy, but obscurity. With so many people trying to be heard, it’s simply a fact that most writers have to give away much of their work in order to reach readers at all.
To make a living then, a writer needs to think laterally about how their work makes money. When a new reader finds my blog, I don’t expect them to stump up a £29.99 subscription to access my words through a paywall! But if that reader buys a book on Amazon through one of my reviews, I get a few cents. If they later jump aboard as a patron, I might get a few dollars. If they buy my short story collection or forthcoming books, a few dollars more. All of the clients for my editing services and online courses also begin as blog readers.
Patreon is one way of building an income from a small pool of readers who really connect with your work. Nearly all of my patrons are people who began following me online in the last 2 years, often after reading this blog. Everything I write on my blog is given way for free, but there are a growing number of ways for writers to increase the RPR we get in return. And, of course, the more I can earn from writing, the more of my time I’m able to dedicate to the thing I love…writing!
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